The first time I questioned God I was 8 years old.
I was in the angry phase of grief. No one told me about those 5 phases (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Alone with no one around to comfort a deeply grief stricken little girl, I lashed out at the only person I thought to blame.
My Sunday School teacher at our local Methodist church had taught me that everything comes from God. I thought she only meant fun things like.. Santa, potlucks and the tasty grape juice and crackers we ate once a month for communion.. not death.
"Why did you take my mother away?"
"What did I do wrong?"
"What am I going to do now?"
When my tears and questions came back unanswered I moved to anger.
"I hate you."
Last year when I was traveling in Kenya we were making our morning trek down to the school. It was already sweltering hot.. like so so Africa hot. On the way we passed a woman, she was making her way up the (super steep) hill from the school, she had an infant with a blanket draped over him/her slung over her shoulder. Janet stopped her, said a few words in Swahili and pulled back the blanket.
I sucked my breath in quickly as a baby almost dead or possibly already dead was revealed, it's eyes lolled back in it's sweet, sweaty head..my heart pounded hard in my chest.. the mother looked frantic..a mixture of fear and partial awe as she stood in front of a group of white people staring at her.
I had to look away.. A group of spoiled privileged Americans fawning over the suffering African baby.. how cliche.. bile churned in my stomach.
Have you ever thought about how intimate death is?
Janet said what we all knew, "the baby is not going to make it, she is on her way to the clinic, but I think it is too late." We turned, walked on..it was like our own little funeral procession.
My throat ached from holding back the sobs that wanted badly to escape. I was first to volunteer to go stack bricks.. behind the school.. alone.
The tears came quickly, I gulped for air as the bitter taste of grief made my stomach turn.. sweat mixed with kenyan dirt stung my eyes.. I tried desperately to shake the memory.. like tap my ruby slippers 3 times, wake up and have it all be a dream.
It was not a dream, then my heart took a turn I was a little surprised by.. again anger at God.
What made me so special? What had this child ever done to deserve this? Why is the world such an awful place? Why does death sting so badly? Suffering?
Here I was in a remote village in Kenya engaging in a major wrestling match with my Maker. It was not just the baby, or even loosing a parent.. but lots of things.. it just all came spilling out that very moment. The scales had finally tipped.. my soul needed to purge.
(Don't you think it's a little bit funny how we try to push, push, push all those things deep down..act like they don't bother us at all..then when you least expect it..BAM.. at that point it does not matter if you are in the grocery store, son's baseball game or remote Africa.. it's just gonna spill out.)
A few weeks ago I received the most amazing email...
"I have been meaning to tell you- that baby with malaria last year survived it- We did meet the mom on our second trip and she was so surprised that we remembered- Janet."
Tears streamed as I typed an overjoyed response and God quietly whispered to my soul..
Dear reader, I have no witty ending for this post.. I wish I could say that was the last time I lacked faith, wish it was the last time I became angry with this life's struggles. Wish it was the last time I raised my eyebrows and wondered if He really heard my prayers.
For now, and by now, I mean today.. minute by minute.. I lean not on my own understanding, but rather on that one whisper from my Maker.